FCC kicks off cable-broadcaster review

Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:18pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission launched a review into how broadcasters and cable companies negotiate retransmission deals following a recent spat between Walt Disney Co's ABC Network and Cablevision Systems Corp.

ABC pulled its signal from New York's Cablevision on the night of the Oscars earlier this month in a dispute that highlighted growing tension over how much TV distributors should pay for the right to carry the free-to-air broadcast signals of ABC, CBS Corp, News Corp's Fox and NBC, controlled by General Electric Co.

Oscars coverage was restored in a last-minute deal just as the awards program was getting underway.

In a release Friday seeking public comment, the FCC said more than a dozen entities including companies and public interest groups are proposing reforms to rules and finding a proper dispute resolution mechanism.

The deadline for submitting public comments is April 18.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said on CNBC television Wednesday that the current framework was more than 20 years old and showing signs of strain.

The ABC-Cablevision dispute followed another between Time Warner Cable Inc and the Fox network on New Year's Eve.

(Reporting by John Poirier, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)